They say timing is everything, and when it comes to making the decision to move an elderly loved one into a senior living community, the adage holds true. Pulling the trigger too soon can backfire but waiting too long can rob seniors of the opportunity to socialize more, enjoy community activities and amenities, and live in a safe and supportive environment. Because home-based care can often be less-than-reliable, making a proactive move into a retirement community, or assisted living residence can offer family caregivers peace of mind.
According to a recent Forbes Health, Senior Living report, certain telltale signs informal caregivers should be on the lookout for indications that all is not well in the living conditions of an older loved one. While mom may say she’s eating well and doing fine over the phone, an in-person visit can shed light on what’s really going on at home. Unused prescription medications or spoiled food can point to memory problems. If the home is looking a little more unkempt than usual, this can be a sign that normal housework is becoming too difficult.
There are many levels of senior living, and some offer various levels of independence and support care. Older adults who can still care for their own personal hygiene, and are mobile are best suited for assisted living communities where they can opt for the care they need in addition to housekeeping, laundry, meals, or assistance with medication. Seniors with more complex care needs or with memory problems may need more nursing care and the availability of more advanced care.
Other clues that it may be time for a move include a change in mobility or unexplained dents in the car. Changes in financial habits, memory, or mood can also suggest a cognitive or mental health issue and indicate an elderly loved one might need more assistance. Often families, in their efforts to calm and appease seniors, wait too long before initiating a move and wind up making a hasty decision during a time of crisis. Being proactive, and doing the research before the need is urgent can help seniors avoid unnecessary injury or hospitalization.
Talking with your loved one’s health care provider about concerns can help families find the right care, within budget, in their communities. Including the senior in the discussion about a move, and planning ahead to address concerns about transportation, levels of care, privacy, and independence can make the transition easier. When visiting facilities, look out for cleanliness, and ask questions about amenities, activities, social opportunities, and cost. While many seniors would rather age in place as long as possible, to do so safely may require home renovations, visiting support care, and other adaptations that require time, investment, and much research.
By working in collaboration with seniors, starting early to have “the discussion” about living circumstances, the struggle can be minimized and both caregivers and seniors can feel more reassured they are making the best decision at the best time.